A brief tour of Budapest

I know, it’s a bit off-topic for a Berlin blog — das Berlin blog — but it’s where I was this weekend. Here goes:

The train station, my first glimpse of Budapest, looks like it hasn’t changed since the 1950s:

By contrast, Castle Hill, the main attraction on the quiet Buda side of the Danube, is quite lovely:

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Everyone: ‘Germany’s the greatest!’ Greeks: ‘No, actually, we’re the greatest.’

A new poll out from Pew today shows that despite Germany’s insistence on austerity and reluctance to deepen its financial exposure to its neighbors, it remains by far the most respected country in Europe. Citizens of every European country rank Germans as the hardest-working Europeans — well, every country but one:

The British, Germans, Spanish, Poles, and Czechs all see Greece as the laziest country and Germany as the most industrious. The Greeks say they’ve got it backwards. (And to be fair, they’ve got some evidence on their side: In 2010, the average Greek worker worked 2,109 hours, to just 1,419 for the average German worker.)

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Merkel bumbles her way through

This is a very well-written take on Angela Merkel’s clumsy approach to the euro crisis and politics more broadly.

The grass is greener, European wealth edition

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: The latest European Social Survey is out. And The Economist has the key chart:

Never mind the syntactically awkward question; the results are quite telling. First off, to no one’s surprise, most Europeans choose not to identify with the hypothetical speaker who lusts for wealth and expensive things. On average, only 17% classify themselves this way. Germany, at just over 10%, is pretty much in the middle of the pack for western European nations.

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Bureaucracy, in pictures

The European Union is, fundamentally, a combination of two things:

1. an optimistic idea, namely that European countries can achieve greater peace and prosperity by joining together, and
2. an enormous bureaucracy.

Optimism’s all well and good, but on a visit to the European institutions of Brussels and Luxembourg, one sees a lot more of the latter. The buildings are enormous, comprising their own quarters of their respective cities; the staffs are huge; and it all costs lots of money, which member states have to pay — in the hope, of course, that their contributions are supporting the Idea.

I paid such a visit last week, as part of the Fulbright program’s annual EU/NATO seminar. Over a day in Luxembourg and a week in Brussels, 30-some Fulbrighters from around Europe were treated to a guided tour (mostly figurative, partly literal) of the major European institutions. (We also treated ourselves to lots of mussels, fries, chocolate, and beer.)

And so I’ll pay the favor forward, as they say, by taking you, my dear readers, on a guided tour (mostly visual) of these institutions and their home cities.

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The first climate change trade war?

The aviation industry accounts for about 3.5% of the world’s human-caused global warming. May not sound like a lot, but it’s equivalent to the entire United Kingdom. If the UK suddenly announced it would reduce its emissions by 46% by the year 2020, environmentalists would be pretty damn thrilled.

And so they were when the EU announced it was incorporating aviation into its Emissions Trading Scheme — with a gradually declining cap on airline emissions that would cut their CO2 output by … 46% by 2020. Europe, which seemingly can’t agree on anything these days, had agreed on this pretty substantial move.

But not everyone’s agreeing. Read more of this post

A dash of self-promotion

Two new stories out in the past two days: First, an overview of the mess that the German intelligence service has gotten itself into by under-monitoring murderous right-wing extremists while over-monitoring left-wing politicians, in the LA Times; and second, a look at how Mario Monti hasn’t been the quiet technocrat Germans were hoping for, but rather Germany’s most vocal critic, in Foreign Policy.

Check ’em out.

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